This is the second part of the series about the man named Dimitrije Ljotić, dealing with his early political life and creation of unprecedented nationalist movement ZBOR, whose spirit is slowly being revived by loyal men and women from the ruins in the rocky Balkan.
Dimitrije Ljotić was from a well known monarchist family, so his passionate views on monarchy don’t come as a surprise. In his adulthood he was very respected by the King Aleksandar I and had a friendly relationship with him. This relationship would benefit him some time later.
Prior to the King’s dictatorship, Ljotić’s political life revolved around People’s Radical Party, claiming it was „God’s will“ to join it, regardless of his view on the uselessness of political parties. Only after six years in the party, in 1926, did he become a dissident in both his and the eyes of the party. He failed to change the party and the party failed to change him. After parliamentary elections in 1927 he will end his political activity as a member of a political party.
On the 6th of January 1929, King Aleksandar disbanded the worthless parliament, banned the work of all political parties and declared a dictatorship, relaying on military and loyal monarchists, and Ljotić was among them. A strong advocate for centralised state and real monarchy, Ljotić greeted this as a good move on the King’s part and seen this as an opportunity to finally steer the nation on a different path.
After the 6th of January dictatorship many political parties and organisations were banned and their leaders and members expelled, arrested or killed. Many parties of liberal-democratic nature became afraid and demoralized, some arrest were made here and there but for the most part they stayed silent, while the more extreme groups had to be dealt with violence. Such was the case with communists, ustashe, albanian and „macedonian“ separatists. Around 400 communists were murdered between 1929 and 1932, mainly because communists have been preparing for an armed rebellion. Ustashe had the same plan that will, regardless of persecution of their leaders such as Ante Pavelić from Yugoslavia, actually happen in early September 1932, but it ultimately failed only after two days of action. All of this Ljotić, as well as many ordinary folk, met with approval, claiming that “we actually have a king!” Unfortunately, Dimitrije soon realized how things were not going the way they were supposed to. People who just yesterday used to be part of the decaying body of parliamentarism, today found themselves in positions of power as ministers and high officials. Failure of this dictatorship could be clearly seen in Ljotić’s classes. Namely he began teaching in universities about the failures and truths of French revolution, but the district inspector hearing of this forced the universities to end his lectures. One time he had to change the name of his lecture to just have it approved. Ljotić realized that the King didn’t prepare good authority for this new regime and there was a need for new ideas and people.
Valuing Dimitrije’s patriotism and his sympathies for the monarchy, the King appointed him for the position of Minister of Justice. Dimitrije made sure his ministry was well organized, with enough employees, everyone doing their jobs and there was no exploitation of their positions. In his eyes, he had one role: changing the system of government. In the same year, Ljotić presented the King with his version of a new constitution that the country needed. Main point of the draft was that the people should elect their representatives based on professions who would replace the parliament of political parties and become a direct line between the people and the King. The constitution meant to transform the country into an organic monarchy, rid of parasitic political parties. The constitution didn’t pass and Ljotić resigned from the ministry.
After this he returned to his lawyer office in Smederevo and soon enough begun working on a movement project called “Fatherland”. This was one of the movements that were tolerated during the dictatorship, along with Yugoslav Action, association of chetniks for freedom and honor of Fatherland and Slovene organization BOJ (Yugoslav Combat Organization). Many people will gather and form a group around Dimitrije Ljotić and the journals “Fatherland” and “Zbor”. All of these organizations and movements had two things in common: nationalism and loyalty to the King’s dictatorship.
Movement ZBOR formed right after the assassination of the King Aleksandar. Even before, people from different organizations talked about unifying into something new, but after the loss of the King there was a dire need of a unified and strong nationalist movement with new spirit. Yugoslav Action, BOJ and people gathered around Dimitrije Ljotić adopted and signed principles of new movement named “Yugoslav National Movement ZBOR”. One of the founders, Ratko Parežanin, explained that ZBOR stands for Združena Borbena Organizacija Rada (United Militant Labor Organization).
The movement was officially founded on the 6th of January 1935, a date that had a symbolic meaning for the movement, as it’s mission was to continue the deeds started on that day 6 years prior – to reform the country and the system. Main principles of the movement were integration of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes into a new Yugoslav community that is bound in blood and destiny and faith in God as the most important spiritual value of Yugoslav people, along with the preservation of traditional values, agrarianism, continuation of the state and maintaining the purity of Yugoslavian people.
Their appearance on the social and political scenes made a huge impression on the public. Dozens of independent newspaper that had no connection to ZBOR published this news on the front page and even some foreign media talked about the movement as a new organization led by nationalists that wants to set the country on a different path.
Days later some of the members of BOJ and Yugoslav Action decided to leave ZBOR for other, now legal parties, some of the founders of the movement left because they thought ZBOR should merge with stronger political elements, something that was contradictory to the very reason why ZBOR was even formed.
But that was a good thing and time became somewhat of a filter for members, because people in ZBOR had to be people of the same spirit and the same thought. ZBOR had to be a new force that will challenge the new order that came after the death of King Aleksandar, to expose it and bring it down.
ZBOR and it’s leader Dimitrije Ljotić had hard times ahead as people who were put down on the 6th of January back in 1929 had come back and in the next six years they will face real political struggle, but more on that in the next articles of this series.
“And all of our work from then on was to realize that, which we’ve presented to him [the King] so many times, and which in the end he approved of – now that He is gone, those ideas live on in ZBOR as our goals, for the good of our Fatherland, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.”